Best Setup for Low Light Hospital / Baby Pictures

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by joseph_k|1, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. Hello Everyone,
    I am expecting a baby in a few days. I have just purchased a D5000 w/ 18-105 VR Lens for my wife. I would however like to take pictures with the camera during or I should say after the birth in the hospital room. I do not wish to use a flash (Might hurt the baby eyes). Can anyone setup the best equipment and settings for me to use and purchase to take pictures in the hospital. Best lens for the job? Best settings in the camera? Best filter if any?
    Thank you
  2. get a 50mm f1.8 for about $100 but the only thing is it will not autofocus on your D5000 but will be great for your use.
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    First of all, congratulations.
    You already have a very capable consumer DSLR. With the D5000, feel free to use ISO 1600 or perhaps even 3200 indoors. While the 18-105mm is a bit slow on the long end, it should be ok.
    The most important thing is to get familiar with your new camera and take some test shots at ISO 1600 so that you know what type of results you can get.
    If you can get another lens or an external flash, I would get the 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX, which will auto focus with your camera or another other Nikon DSLR. You can also buy an SB-600 flash and bounce it off the ceiling or the wall behind you. I would not use the pop-up flash on the baby.
  4. Great thank guys. I know why everybody said to get the D90 over the D5000 (For the ability to use less expensive lens). Still not a huge deal. I will pick up the 35mm tomorrow at B&H. I really do not know how to use a speed flash I am worried I will wash out the pictures?
    One other question -- Is there much difference between the 50mm and the 35mm other than auto focus? And don't they make a 50mm AF-S?
    Second Question -- No Filter needed...
    Third Question -- Other than ISO@ 1600 is there any other idea's -- Want background smoothed and baby sharp.
    Thank you,
  5. Bounce flash works for me. Most hospitals have fairly bright reflective ceilings and walls, so bounce flash carries pretty well. You might have a few color correction problems due to off-white walls but nothing that can't be fixed in editing.
    Many of my Stewie project photos were taken with bounce flash in the delivery room and ICU. Unless I check the EXIF data it's sometimes hard to tell which were taken with flash and which were done with available light.
    I like to reverse the flash head on my SB-800 to point toward the ceiling, away from the baby's face. Besides not startling the kiddo so much it also provides much more diffuse lighting. But be careful of your surroundings. Reversing the flash head just makes the flash a problem for someone else, so check your surroundings to be sure you aren't blinding some poor sap looking over your shoulder. Not a big deal in ordinary conditions but potentially a problem in an ICU, ER or operating room.
    If you have only the pop-up flash built into your D5000, just use a homebrewed diffuser. Tape a sheet of white typing paper over the flash. The full sheet will provide much better diffusion but will be a bit hard to manage, so cut, tear or bend it to fit.
    Don't worry too much about traumatizing the little one with flash. Most babies hardly notice the flash. I've taken thousands of photos of babies in my family over the years and not once have I seen one of 'em cry or seem upset. But I do try to avoid direct flash. At the very least I always use a diffuser.
    And if the hospital prohibits flash (very unlikely), your D5000 will have plenty of high ISO performance for good results with available light. Even at the f/5.6 maximum effective aperture of some variable aperture zooms you can get good results at ISO 1600-3200. Any residual noise can easily be fixed later with noise reduction software (try the freebie version of Noiseware, or the demo/trial versions of Noiseware or Noise Ninja).
  6. What you have will work, set to ISO 1600 maybe. To blur background you can do one of two things. First is to set your camera to "portrait" mode, which will automatically put aperture at it's widest setting. Then, move in fairly close, maybe two feet. The background should blur well. A lens such as Sigma 30mm f1.4, Nikon 35mm f1.8G will blur the background even more. In fact, if you aren't careful you will only get the nose in focus and the face behind will blur a bit. Usually with portraits the thing you really want in focus are the eyes. Nikon does make a 50mm f1.4 AFS lens now, and it's good. For about the same money I think the new Sigma 50mm f1.4 HSM (HSM = AFS) is a tad better. Both are about $450 though. For half the money, I think you'd get more use from a SB-600 flash.
    Kent in SD
  7. Which is technicalily better -- the Nikkor 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX or the 50mm f1.4 AF-S. If I am going to spend the money I might as well get something the is really a "Best in Class".
    Are there pro and cons for each one with regard to Portraits?
    Thank you,
  8. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    50mm is a weird focal length for DX; it is a short tele but a little short for portraits. Since you already have the 18-105, adding a fast 35mm/f1.8 seems to make a lot of sense. The hitch is that the 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX seems to be out of stock at B&H at the moment.
  9. Joseph, if you're wanting to get a faster lens to minimize the use of flash and maximize use of available light and the slowest practical ISO, the 35/1.8 DX AF-S makes the best sense for your D5000. Not only is it fully compatible, including autofocusing, but the effective focal length is close to the "normal" lens that I've found useful for many years.
    The 50mm lens will effectively be a short telephoto on your camera. Whether this is suitable for you depends on your style. If you have a lot of photos already taken with digital cameras you can study the EXIF data to evaluate your tendencies. Otherwise, if you trust the experience of someone who's done a lot of this before, I'd recommend the 35mm focal length for a DX format dSLR.
    Many of my documentary photos of the early life of my nephew Stewie (including the birth of his brother) were taken at the 35mm focal length using various mid-range zooms, which was equivalent to a "normal" focal length on my D2H. Unless I needed group shots I seldom found it absolutely essential to use anything wider. And I'm not at all shy about getting in close when photographing people, especially family and friends, so I seldom feel at all constrained by lenses that are only moderately wide, or even when using short telephotos. But what's best for you will depend on your own comfort level with taking photos in very close physical proximity to your subjects.
  10. Your post bring memory back. Last year I bought a D80 for my son's arrival ...
    Another vote for the 35/1.8, if you can find one in time for the delivery. The 35/1.8 is very versatile and smaller and lighter than the 50mm so it is easier to use in a cramped space. Because it is so light and small, it is a wonderfull go-every-where lens. If you can't find the 35/1.8, the Sigma 30/1.4 is another excellent choice and its bokeh is slghtly better than the Nikon's, but it is also much bigger and more expensive. As an alternative, the Nikon or the Sigma 50/1.4 will work well, but you need a bit more working distance with these two lenses. The Sigma 50/1.4 is a really good people lens b/c of its smooth bokeh, which is slightly better than that of the Nikon, but it is bigger. It is a good investment if you plan to take picture of your baby in the years to come.
    One good way to find out how these lenses can do for you is to go to Flickr. Each lens has a user group so you can look at the pictures taken by each lens. There is also a Nikon/Sigma 35/30 group where both users share pictures on the same site.
    If you go to the hospital at night, the light levels there is expected to be very low so the D5000 will be a great camera for this type of situation. I would also recommend to download Nikon's "Nikon Transfer" and "View NX" for processing your RAW data. In ViewNX, you can change the picture mode to "Portrait" which does an excellent job in smooth out the skin tone, and removing harsh high lights and shadows.
    While most people do not use the video feature in the camera, but once you have the 35/1.8 or 50/1.4, set the aperture to f2.8 and shoot a few videos around the house. You may be amazed by the movie-like quality that it produces. Because D5000 has outstanding performce at high ISO, it will beat most consumer camcorder for picture quality in low light. After a few trials, you may not want to lug along a camcorder any more.
  11. Direct flash with homebrewed diffuser, Olympus P&S digicam (needs some color correction tho')​
    Hi Lex, what P&S did you use to take this picture and how did you get the background to blur so nicely? Did you use the Macro mode?
  12. My first choice is the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 but it's very hard to find unless you're willing to pay a premium. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is a real bargain but you'll have to focus manually. That's not a real problem with a baby who's not going anywhere. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 will AF with your D5000, but they're expensive. The Nikon would be my first choice among them but they're all good lenses.
    You probably could use your 18-105 VR at ISO 1600 or 3200 even at relatively low shutter speeds because of the VR and because newborns don't move around too much or too fast.
    You can use flash, but if you do, back off and use the long end of your 18-105 VR. The further away the flash the better. This may not be necessary, but why take a chance?
  13. Though I don't have a Nikon I did take a crop-camera (Canon 350D) with a 50mm f/1.8 for my sons birth. It was a very good fit. It is not too long and not too short (in my opinion) for a newborn.
    However, it should be clear: there is no reason to not use the flash if it is allowed by the hospital. It will not harm your child's eyes in any way. Anyone telling you otherwise is a fool.
  14. Hospital rooms can be pretty bright when you turn on the lights. They need to be. Most of the light will be fluorescent. You should have enough light even without a high iso.
    the staff will not mind and the light will be pretty even and you avoid the use of flash
    Congrats and good luck
  15. Invest the $200 for the 35mm F1.8 AFs. Its super sharp and fast. The perfect compliment to your zoom. Those 2 lenes shold cover most anything except for long telephoto and super wide.
  16. congratulations
    no need to worry about the little uns eyes. I've worked there and every day photos are taken there with a flash. Do yourself a favour though, take them after the little one is born, your wife will thank you for it. Personally I wouldn't use any flash since it has the tendency to beat everything to smithereens. In most rooms there is enough light to take good photos with a moderately high ISO setting. Alternatively you could use their OR ceiling lamp which is mostly Xenon, or if its a real modern hospital, LED light.
  17. Your post bring memory back. Last year I bought a D80 for my son's arrival ...​
    I am nowhere near knowing what it's like to be a dad, but new dads and cameras always seem to go together--my dad bought an FG-20 right before I was born!
  18. Thank you everyone for the really great feedback. I am off to find a 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX. Thank you for all of the good luck wishes. Will let you know if I find one and where.
    Thank you,
  19. Just like another poster, I am also reminded of when my own daughter was born, just this February. I purchased a D90 for her arrival and used the kit 18-105 with great success ( ! ). Now, the delivery rooms are not very bright, and the photos I took before birth looked great at ISO 1600 (without flash), but we ended up going to the operating room for an unplanned C-section and I am here to tell you that those rooms are QUITE bright!
    I did use the 50mm 1.8 on a 35mm B&W film camera (loaded with ISO 1600 film) - this focal length would be about equivalent to you using the 35mm on your D5000. So I too recommend the 35mm 1.8 DX.
    Normal is a fine focal length.
  20. CC, the original version of that photo is on a CD or DVD buried in my closet. Apparently all I have on my hard drive are downsized copies run through Irfanview so most of the EXIF data is gone. That particular photo was taken with my Olympus C-3040Z P&S digicam, a terrific camera for the era (2001 or so), and still very good other than being limited to SmartMedia cards.
    Best I can remember, I set the 35-105/1.8-2.6 zoom to macro mode (the real strength of many Olympus P&S digicams) and moved pretty close to help blur out the background distractions - bed rail, IV pole, various monitors. I probably shot wide open or nearly so. I used a sheet of white paper as a flash diffuser, just holding the paper in my left hand while operating the camera with my right. I set the flash exposure compensation to around -1 EV, maybe even -2. The exposure was determined manually, so the flash would only pop just enough to brighten the eyes. That particular room was fairly bright, with big windows. It was taken a few months after Stewie's first heart surgeries, so he was out of the ICU by then.
    I used the Nikon D2H, SB-800 and various lenses in the ICU because the lights were very dim. I shot a bunch with available light at ISO 1600 or higher (very noisy with the D2H, but not a problem for even Nikon's least expensive dSLRs nowadays). Others, I shot at ISO 400 with the SB-800 head reversed to bounce off the ceiling over Stewie's bed. Each bed in the ICU was separated by curtains and I was always careful to be sure I wasn't disturbing any other babies or families whenever I used flash.
    The attached photo here was taken a year later at the birth of Stewie's little brother Nicholas. The light in that room was awful, with a pronounced orange cast no matter what white balance I tried. So I finally gave up on available light and used an exposure that would pretty much eliminate the influence of the room light and just relied on bounced flash from the SB-800. I think the EXIF data for this photo is still attached. Should be the D2H w/ 18-70 DX (so a fast lens isn't absolutely essential), ISO 400, 1/60th @ f/8, full auto TTL flash from the SB-800 with the flash head reversed and aimed toward the ceiling and slightly behind me.
  21. Hi friend. As you have a dx with the crop factor and you want the besto of the best perhaps you should think about buying Sigma 30mm 1.4. I have one and it is excellent!
  22. congratulations!
    your best bet is the normal 35mm f/1.8 that will auto focus on you camera, especially if you want to blur the background and bring out the baby. the 5omm af-s is too expensive, so is the sigma 30mm f/1.4. from the money you will save if you get the 35mm f/1.8 you can get an sb-600 that i'm pretty sure you will want once the baby goes home.
  23. With respect, I'd leave the camera gear at home while Mom and offspring are in the hospital. It's a crowded, busy environment that's very photo-unfriendly. The clinical OR-style shots actually won't mean much 5 years from now. Besides, neither of your near-and-dear will likely appreciate your detachment and fussing behind a camera. Take it in, be supportive, and wait till you all get home and settled. It's a special time but not always the photo-op it seems. Best wishes to all.
  24. Sorry, but I don't think its good to take photos in the delivery room. You should be sitting up the top end caressing your wifes hair etc and kissing her as she goes through what might be a very traumatic and excruciating experience. I think the sight of a husband running around taking snapshots is a bit off. Maybe after the baby is born, and the huge mess has been cleaned up and all is calm again.
    Two of my three kid's deliveries ended up being emergency C sections and it was no fun to witness what my wife went through, as she had lost one baby with her first husband. It was not a moment to be taking photos. People tend to think of childbirth as a simple procedure. Its not, and it can put the life of the mother and the child very much at risk. Just something simple like the cord being around the baby's neck is undetectable until the surgeon gets to feel the baby's neck in the delivery canal.
    Both times our OB bundled me out of the delivery room as it was transformed into an operating theatre in about 30 seconds flat each time as there was no time to get to the OR. Even though I wore a gown, I was still not sterile and nor would be my camera.
    Later, I got some nice photos of a happy and somewhat recovered mother with her nice pink baby.
  25. I think the OP was talking about after the birth, when things have calmed done a bit, because I would whole-heartedly agree with you, Stephen.
    But check the light in the room. In hospitals where I have worked (as an anesthesiologist--the MD who gives the epidural) the rooms can be made quite bright and it is usually banks of fluorescents in the ceiling. ORs, as stated, are very bright and the surgical lights are almost daylight. But assuming she goes "natural" or "from below" meaning no C Section, the room lighting is muted usually for the birth. After birth, though, the lights can be increased and are because the baby's vital signs need careful monitoring and this includes the baby's color.
    And James, beautiful shot of the resuscitation of a newborn. That is it. You nailed it. O2, suction and a screaming apparently healthy baby. I would almost guarantee the three people standing over her were smiling.
  26. Update: Just Bought the 35mm /f1.8 AF-S DX. Many thanks to everyone who help me with this very special purchase. I really enjoyed the discussion and want to say a special thank you to all of the new fathers / photographers who gave me some really good insight to how the lighting will be.
    To try to return the favor I know lots of people are hunting down this lense for purchase. seems to have lots in stock. I hope this helps some of you.
    I will post some pictures for some feed back as soon as able.
    Thank you again,

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